What can Zingword bring to translators?
Andrew Bell is a medical and pharmaceutical translator working from Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan to English, trading under the name Bell Johnson Translations. You can connect with him by using the following links:
Zingword is a unique invitation-only platform where translators can market their services. I’m sure any translator with a Twitter account will have come across Zingword. I first followed them because I thought the content they published was really interesting and relevant to my business, but little did I know that Zingword was behind one of the most recent attempts to revolutionise how translation services are purchased.
Once Zingword CEO, Robert Rogge, found out I’d be writing an article about his company, he agreed to speak to me and answer my questions regarding what Zingword can offer translators. However, before we begin, I’d like to add a little disclaimer and make it clear that I’m not profiting in any way from this article, and my intention here is to offer some insight into the Zingword platform to my translator and interpreter colleagues. If you like what you read below, Robert has very kindly created a special invitation to join the platform for my readers, which you can redeem here.
What is Zingword trying to achieve?
In a nutshell, Zingword wants to facilitate the way in which translators are contacted by potential clients, especially direct clients and quality LSPs.
The idea came from Robert’s own experience as an LSP owner. He felt that translators were missing out on an opportunity when it came to working with direct clients, but also remarked that translators were also hard to find for LSPs, which results in multi-level outsourcing.
Currently, translators usually have to seek out their clients, which isn’t the most efficient way of conducting business. Ideally, you want your clients to be approaching you, so you can maximise your billable hours. However, the current process of finding a translator is very “un-client-friendly”.
The search algorithm allows even the nichest of specialisms to shine
Zingword enables users to search by keywords instead of selecting options from a very vague drop-down menu and trawling through what seems like a never-ending list of potential translation suppliers. This means that, for example, instead of selecting the quite general category of medical and pharmaceutical translators, the client can narrow down their search in step one, so they only see translators who work in one particular area of medicine, such as cardiology, or they can even be more specific and search for translators who have experience working with a specific type of pacemaker. This simplification of the “finding the translator” is one of the things that Zingword hopes will benefit both freelance translators and clients.
Won’t clients just select the cheapest translator on the search results?
Are you even a translator if you don’t have a horror story of being asked to translate 10,000+ words for $0.02 per word? Unfortunately, the translation industry is unregulated, and that ultimately means that non-professionals can swoop in and undercut us. However, Zingword has taken some steps to try and eliminate the threat of being undercut, and here’s how:
There is no job board
This removes the option of bidding on jobs which is arguably the biggest cause of this race to the bottom, instead the search algorithm will return the most suitable translators for a given job, and then the client will have to decide which translator they wish to work with.
It is a platform for professionals
We all know that serious translators would never undercut the market, not only because they love the industry they work in, but because it’s simply unsustainable in the long term. That’s why Zingword only allows professionals to make a profile on its platform. Of course, this raises the big question, what makes a translator a professional? When I asked Robert to elaborate on this, he said that for Zingword this means that your main source of income comes from translation among other criteria, which they are actively monitoring to keep their platform clean. Of course, I asked Robert to elaborate on this "other criteria", but he preferred to keep it secret so people can't try to fake their way onto the platform.
When I first found out that you could only join Zingword by receiving an invitation, I was very sceptical. For me it was reminiscent of the popular kids’ table in an American film, where only the select few get a seat with the “cool” kids. However, Robert was very quick to assure me that the whole idea behind this was to make sure that the platform doesn’t become saturated with non-professionals.
So, the next logical question is how do you go about getting an invitation? Well, you can find one at the top of this article, because if you are reading this, odds are you are a professional translator. It's important to note that the invitations are not like Willy Wonker’s golden tickets, and there are plenty to go around. A member of the Zingword team and translators already on the platform can send out invitations to other translators. In my case, I received an invitation from Zingword from being active on social media and really engaging with the online translation community, something that only a professional translator would do.
I received an invitation from Zingword from being active on social media and really engaging with the online translation community, something that only a professional translator would do.
Profiles are vetted
Once you receive the invitation and set up your profile, in a final verification step, it is reviewed by a member of the Zingword team. This is to ensure that you are indeed a professional translator and/or interpreter.
How important is experience on Zingword?
As I still consider myself relatively new to the translation industry, I was very keen on finding out more about how experience is factored into the equation.
Robert confirmed that experience has to be taken into consideration, as it is something valued by all clients, and this isn’t specific to translation. However, he was keen to point out that it was by no means the only factor, as you also have to take into account specialisms, qualifications, CPD, and even the translator’s own profile, amongst other factors. I think this could be very useful for translators starting out, as it gives them a space to highlight what they can bring to the table instead of being automatically branded as inexperienced.
[Experience is] by no means the only factor, as you also have to take into account specialisms, qualifications, CPD, and even the translator’s own profile, amongst other factors.
Why do you have to publish your rates on Zingword?
This was perhaps the most controversial topic I discussed with Robert. Zingword requires all users to be transparent about their rates and publish them on their profiles, but I’m sure many translators will have been told during their training, just like I was, that this is a big no-no!
Personally, I think translators should be more transparent when it comes to their rates. It would be invaluable for newcomers to the industry when they’re trying to price their services, and it would help prevent undercutting as it would educate both clients and translators about acceptable rates for a given service. However, I acknowledge that there are negative aspects related to this practice as well, such as losing a lot of negotiating power when it comes to upping your rate, but I will leave this discussion for another blog post.
Robert, who isn’t a translator, shared his opinion with me from the other side of the fence, that is as a buyer of translation services. He says that not knowing the rate for a given service causes friction in the buying process, as you have to get in touch with several translators just to be able to get a feel for how much the service should cost, and then depending on this cost you may not even want to go ahead with the job. However, if you knew the price upfront, the process becomes more about finding the right person for the job rather than trying to work out a fair rate. And this change of focus in the buying process is what will ultimately benefit both clients and translators in the long term, as clients are willing to pay more for an excellent service and end product. Regarding being transparent about rates on Zingword, Robert added that Zingword allows for a discussion on rates, though it does not allow clients to begin by bargaining. He says that the best way for translators to raise their rates is simply to raise them!
...not knowing the rate for a given service causes friction in the buying process, as you have to get in touch with several translators just to be able to get a feel for how much the service should cost... However, if you knew the price upfront, the process becomes more about finding the right person for the job rather than trying to work out a fair rate.
To round up, Zingword is trying to tackle a problem in the translation industry that many translators have just learnt to live with. It sounds like they could revolutionise the translation buying process and ultimately help translators find new clients, but the only way to know for sure is to get involved.